They said it would take a lot of work to recover strength and range of motion after the knee replacement.
They said it would be painful.
They said it would take weeks and months to get back to something “normal.”
They told me all this. I expected to work hard and endure pain. Even so, I did not really understand what my days would be like.
It is now 8 weeks since the surgery and I have been home for almost 6 of those weeks. I think the most difficult aspect of this at-home period to grasp has been how hugely the surgery and the post-surgical recovery have affected my daily life.
I have learned or re-learned the way to go up and down stairs, the way to get in and out of a car (this can be embarassing as sometimes I get sort of stuck half in and half out), new ways to get up and down from furniture, a new way to get into and out of bed, even a new way to sit down at the piano. I have found that certain flexion movements in that left knee trigger terrific spasms that leave me breathless and frantically anxious to relax the muscles.
The physical therapists have been my allies. I both look forward to and somewhat dread my twice-a-week appointments. The therapists have been unfailingly respectful, informative, careful, and diligent as they have worked with me toward gradual recovery. The sessions can be painful. Or rather, the sessions are painful. At least in my case, there seems to be no other way they can be. The measurements of joint range of motion that are taken every time can also be encouraging or discouraging — sometimes reflecting improvement, sometimes status quo, and sometimes slipping backwards. Of course, I go to each appointment hoping to demonstrate movement that is closer to full knee extension, deeper flexion, and improved ability to make the full rotation on the bicycle in a tighter position.
We started out with about 6 specific exercises for me to do twice a day. Now, at this point, we are up to probably 20 exercises, but some winnowing is going on as new needs emerge and old needs disappear. Most recently, I have started using a heating pad and massage before the exercises in hopes of better muscle relaxation and joint mobility.
In probably just a few more weeks, I will be able to discard the cane totally. My energy level, sleep patterns and appetite will have improved. Hopefully the spasms will be gone, the pain on exercise will be less, and the stiffness will be much improved. In the meantime, I will continue to be something of a lame duck– there’s no getting around it (ha!).